Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Joy. It is one of the greatest thing that our world desires. Joy is deeper than happiness and more enduring than pleasure. These are fleeting while joy is abiding.
What is joy? How do we find it? Here are 7 simple ways the Bible guarantees you will find joy and keep it:
2. Remember to Worship
When we focus on self (pride) our lives want joy. Joy comes from depending on God, putting Him and others first. The highest act of humility is worship. When we praise God for how great He is our gaze is lifted from self to heaven, from darkness to light. Such joy is magnified when we join others in the command of public worship. Music is also good medicine to a weary soul.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)
3. Don’t Walk Alone
Christianity is personal but not private; Christians are part of the body and meant to support each other. How lonely it is to live for and by oneself. How depressing it is to have no one to encourage you. By design, God gave us the Church—His representative family on earth—in part at least, so our joy might be full. When we are active members of the Church we’ll have many brothers and sisters to share life with us.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
4. Walk in Obedience
When we disobey the King we can only expect to live in guilt and shame and fear. However, when we obey Him, when we do good, it will be our joy. There is blessing in knowing we’re doing right, that we’re walking the way the King desires, the way we were created to live.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11, cf. 1 John 5:3; Ps 119:2).
5. Enjoy the Small Things
Life can become monotonous, even hard at times. However, rather than despair the Lord commands us to take advantage of the small things in life: that sunset, a good meal, birds at the feeder, time with family, a job well done. Let’s not forget to count our small blessings and enjoy them one by one. The Lord uses these things to bring us joy.
And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15, c.f. 2:24)
6. Be Content
It is easy to slip into the prideful thought that we deserve X lot in life or that God’s providence in any given situation isn’t best for us. Contentment frees us from self-pity to find joy in every situation.
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. (Hymn “It is Well”)
7. Hope In the Future This world is a dark place and we experience the effects of sin. Even as we do all of the above in faith, we can lose hope and without hope there is no joy. However, the believer has been promised a day free from the presence of sin when Jesus returns. This hope breathes joy into our darkness.
According to His promise we are expecting new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
So may your joy be complete by realizing His grace and walking in it.
If you ever visit a truly old North American Church (e.g. KT above) or one in Europe (e.g. England) you will like find a copy of the 10 Commandments in the Church. (Most classic Protestant catechisms, like Luther’s and Calvin’s, included them too). In my visits to old churches in Britain you will traditionally find two things on either side of the altar: the 10 commandments and either the Lord’s Prayer or Apostles Creed (or both). The one representing The Law and the other Grace.
The Law convicts of sin and drives us to the promise of the Gospel. Once we believe the Law becomes our guide to holiness, enabled by the help of the Holy Spirit.
Once familiar to or known by most Christians, sadly today many Christians cannot even tell you the 10 Commandments. I became aware of this at a church retreat when one group activity question was to list the 10 commandments in order. I got them all but not in order. As such I resolved to learn them by heart. Our son was able to say them by the age of 2.
Jesus condensed the 10 Commandments (and indeed the whole Mosaic Law) in the Great Commandment. Consider their identical parallels:
Part of the decline of the 10 Commandments is general biblical illiteracy but part of it is a view that does not see them as part of God’s moral law, binding upon all people at all times.
However, we have every reason to affirm that they are and so cherish them.
We find pre-Law expressions of don’t murder (Cain and Abel) and the Sabbath (Creation and Manna). Abraham kept all of God’s laws too (Gen 26:5).
Each of the 10 Commandments are also reaffirmed in the New Testament (or New Covenant):
Other reasons to view the 10 Commandments as a faithful summary of the moral law include:
So let’s impress the 10 Commandments upon our heart and pray the Holy Spirit will use them to convict of sin and lead to righteousness.
You can view part one (History of the Land to 1917) here; and part two (History of the Land Since 1917) here.
How Christians approach the land/modern state of Israel today depends on their answer to an number of theological questions: the way they understand the Bible, their view of salvation history, who the people of God are and their understanding of the future.
Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars and God the things that are God’s.” This is useful to understanding the question of the State of Israel.
I sympathize most with the ancient Jewish land claims of the State of Israel, which far outweigh that of the Arab Palestinians; add to this Israel’s international recognition, defensive victories and productive sovereign presence and they have every right to exist, even if imperfectly. It certainly has a right to defend itself, remembering compassionate justice.
Yet the Arabs of Palestine have been there many centuries and likewise have a right to co-exist, either in Israel or over their own state (something that Zionism challenges). They have certainly been impacted by the arrival of Jewish settlers and refugees. However, the Arabs lost the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. The Arabs have clearly leveraged refugees against Israel when in all other international examples displaced people are reintegrated. Most Arab Palestinians simply want to live peaceably (and many do so as citizens of Israel). However, 5 times the PLO has turned down peace deals that would have seen them sovereign over Gaza and the West Bank, why? If Israel laid down their arms there are enough people who hate her that she would cease to exist. If the Palestinians laid down their arms (in the sense of terrorism and not police and military forces) then there would be peace. The adage that the conflict is “easy to explain, difficult to solve,” seems very true. One reason why the Jews are hated is theological, they are God’s “chosen” people; but this must be defined.
Religiously I do not sympathize with Israel with the exceptions of my Judeo-Christian heritage (Ro 9:5, chs. 9–11) and also my desire that all ethnic Israel may be saved (Ro 11:26). My sympathy stops here because I am a covenantalist (I see continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant people of God, the elect, c.f. Ro 9–11—the Church is Israel) and an a-millennialist (the millennial Kingdom is today, Christ reigning over His Church on earth by His Spirit—the promises of land have been fulfilled).
Indeed, God choose to save a people to himself (the elect). He sought to bring salvations by choosing, under the OC, to work through one nation (Israel). Even in the OT Israel was made up of visible and believing Israel, or those elect to service and those elect to salvation. Under the New Covenant, unbelieving Jews remain “elect to service,” but in a much diminished sense, to bring about the salvation of the Gentiles. The New Covenant community are God’s people, believing Jew and Gentile, in salvation and in predominant service. However, because unbelieving ethnic Jews are still elect to service they are a hated people (anti-semitism). It seems clear that God, in His providence, has been kind to the Jews by allowing them back to their historic lands; a kindness no doubt intended to lead to repentance (Ro 2:4).
We must remember to read the whole Bible through the lens of Christ (Christologically, e.g. the road to Emmaus). The promises of the Promised Land were surely realized in a literal sense under Solomon. Because the promises were contingent on covenant faithfulness the Jews were expelled from the land for their unfaithfulness. It was according to God’s mercy they were even able to return to the land in part under the Persians. The destruction of the Jewish Temple and the expulsion of the Jews from the land was a judgement for not accepting the New Covenant of the Messiah. (During the first millennia Christians were disinterested in the land, except for its connection to Christ and the saints, for this reason). When secular Zionism emerged, Rabbis were quick to point out that the dispersion was God’s judgement and that the Jews would not return to the land, in their view, until the Messiah came. Today Israel is largely a spiritually godless Western nation of atheists and legalists. Even if the Old Covenant had not been fulfilled in Christ, ethnic Jews would have no claim to the land because of their covenant unfaithfulness. How much more so today because they reject the New Covenant.
While Zionism is a powerful and tantalizing drug that even the disciples dappled with (Acts 1:6). Jesus in the Kingdom of God, however, had far more in mind. At the Fall God’s presence in His place (Eden/earth) was lost. Since that point His presence on His place has been expanding. The Promised Land was a type of Eden. Today the Kingdom’s reign through the New Covenant People of God (the Church) is typologically expanding His rule all over the earth, not simply in one place (Israel). In the words of the Reformers Luther and Calvin, the restoration of Israel is a mere “Jewish myth.” When Christ returns His rule over earth will be completed in the New Heavens and New Earth. Perhaps the most we might say of Israel in this is that it is likely Christ will return to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11), and so in that sense Israel might feature in future events.
But what of God’s promises to Abraham of the land? It was fulfilled in Christ just like all Old Covenant promises. We must covenantally understand the expansive nature of this promise. Imagine a father promised his son a carriage as a gift for his marriage in 1900. However, when he was married in 1910 he gave him a new automobile. Did the father not give what he had promised? Abraham never lived to see an inheritance in the Promised Land. This was because he was hoping in what the Promised Land signified, the New Heavens and New Earth, God’s reign over all (Heb 11:10).
Civilly I sympathize with Israel; religiously I also sympathize with Israel, but not in a way many ministries and Christians have paraded on social media since the recent conflict began. It is a modest sympathy. My sincere sympathies lie here:
Existing in both Israel and Palestine are believing Jews and Arabs, members of the New Covenant, Christians. These are our brothers and sisters. These are the ones caught between a worldly power struggle (unbelieving Palestinians and Israelis) that we ought to sympathize the most with, whether it is an Israeli Christian being killed by Hamas rockets or a Palestinian Christian being killed by Israeli missiles. Our great desire for Israelis and Palestinians is that they might join Christ’s kingdom through repentance and faith and thus be assured of a place in the New Heavens and New Earth.
A Brief History of the Land since 1917
This blog is a three part series on the State of Israel, the land, etc. The first two blogs are historical and meant to be presented in a way that anyone, objectively, could agree with them.
To read part one click here.
In the late 1800s, partly due to growing Ottoman weakness and partly due to a rise in Christian (either for Dispensational reasons or anti-semitism) and Jewish Zionism (that a people need a place, Theodore Hertzl) in Europe, more Jews began to emigrate to the Ottoman Empire. In 1917 about 20% of Palestine was Jewish.
In 1917 the British liberated Palestine during WWI. They had promised the Arabs who helped them defeat the Ottoman’s independence. However, in 1916 the British and French secretly agreed to split the land in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Palestine became British. In 1917 Lord Balfour published the Balfour Declaration, which favoured the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people.”
Under British rule more and more Jews immigrated to British Palestine, the British being very sympathetic to Zionism.
Prior to WWII, many Arabs increasingly came into armed conflict with the Jewish settlers and the British. When the British tarried in agreeing to a Jewish state some Jews likewise targeted the British.
In 1939 the world’s attention shifted to WWII; issues simmered, while Jewish immigration increased because of Nazism. Post-WWII the British abdicated responsibility for the tensions to the newly formed United Nations and the world was sympathetic to a home for the Jews because of the Holocaust. In 1947 the UN passed Resolution 181, calling for the partitioning of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. The Arabs rejected it. As soon as Israel declared independence in May 1948, neighbouring Arab states immediately attacked Israel. The result was that young State of Israel won a surprising victory and increased its territory and some 700,000 Arabs were displaced. (They were also told to leave until the state had been defeated and they could return). Egypt occupies Gaza and Jordan the West Bank. (The Palestinian flag dates to 1964). Some 650,000 Jewish refugees also fled from their Arab countries, where they'd lived for years, to seek peace in Israel.
Under the Israeli constitution Jewish and Arab citizens, Muslims and Christians, have full equality.
While it is not true the land was barren and disused under the Arabs (as the British had said) the Israelis did much to improve the land.
In June 1967 came the Six-Day War when Israel was attacked on all sides by Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The Arabs were defeated, resulting in Israel occupying the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, Gaza and West Bank. Following the war several Arab nations issued the “Three Noes” or the Khartoum Resolution: no peace, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations.
In September 1972 11 Israeli athletes were killed at the Munich Olympics by the [Palestinian] group Black September.
In October 1974 the Yom Kippur War erupted as Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack, with heavy casualties on both sides. Egypt fared better than Syria, who lost more of the Golan Heights.
In September 1978 the Camp David Accords see Israel return Sinai in return for peace.
In 1987 the first intifada, or Palestinian uprising, erupts leading to ongoing deaths.
In 1993 the Oslo Accords set out a peace process between Israel and the Palestinian authority. Unresolved issues include Israeli settlements in West Bank and the status of Jerusalem. In 1994 Jordan and Israel sign a peace deal.
In 1995 Israeli PM is assassinated by a Jewish shooter who opposed the Oslo Accords.
In 2000, after Ariel Sharon (later PM) visited the Temple Mount, the second intifada erupted leaving many dead on both sides. Following this conflict Israel builds the West Bank barrier.
In 2005 Israel gives Gaza. However, in 2006 Hamas, a terrorist group backed by Iran with the aim of exterminating Israel, is elected.
In 2006 Israel fought a war with Hezbollah (an Iranian backed militia in Lebanon). Flare ups have continued.
In 2008 Israel attacks Hamas in Gaza. Since this time there are often flare ups of violence.
Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank.
In total Israel offered the PLO peace five times and five times the PLO rejected it. This is often because of an unwillingness to recognize Israel.
In 2017 the USA recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Israel has been normalizing relations with many Arab nations.
Several things may be observed:
5. European= 191
*The Jews have been the longest culture and religion to be in the land; though Christians and Muslims have considerable claims too.
5. It must be remembered Israel is not an exclusively Jewish state. It tolerates other religions and some 20% of Israelis are Arab.
6. Palestinian, like Israeli, are NEW terms. Prior to the 20th Century there were no Palestinians or Israelis, simply Arabs, Jews, etc, living in an artificially created land named Palestine.
You might benefit from:
A three part series on the land/state of Israel and what Christians should make of it.
The news of the recent Israel-Hamas war has put the region, and its complex civil and religious questions, back into the international spotlight again. What should a Christian response be? While this three part blog will give a basic overview it’s interest is primarily theological and not social or political. It must be stated, this is a complex issue and many have devoted their entire lives to its study. However, we can ascertain some basics.
A Brief History of the Land to 1917
The Canaanites are the earliest known residents of the Levant; the region at the crossroads of two continents. They were descended from Ham who was the father of the ancient Egyptians, Canaanites and Arabs (Gen 10:6, 19). Because of Ham’s sin (and perhaps foreseeing Canaan’s evil), Noah cursed Canaan.
c. 2166 BC. God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (“the Promised Land”) as part of his wider promise (Gen 12, 15, 17). Abraham, however, died only owning a grave in Canaan.
C. 1446/or 1260. Moses and then Joshua led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The nations there were so godless and so evil God used Israel to bring judgement on them.
C. 1051 BC. Saul/David formed the Israelite monarchy. It later split between the northern Kingdom (Israel) and the southern Kingdom (Judah). In 725 BC Israel was taken into exile by the Assyrians, their land resettled with other peoples who mixed with the Israelite lower classes (the Samaritans). In 586 BC Judah was taken into exile by the Babylonians. Likewise, many others came to dwell in the land with the lower class Jews.
Under the Persians they were permitted to return to Judea and be semi-autonomous.
Though many Jews returned to Judea many remained abroad to build their lives across the Ancient Near East. This is called the Diaspora or dispersion.
The Persians were conquered by the Greeks. The Jews rebelled against the Greeks and formed the Maccabean Kingdom (167–63 BC).
In 63 BC the Romans intervened in the Maccabean civil war and came to incorporate Judea as a province within the Empire.
4 BC–30/33 AD. The time of Jesus.
During this time a tense relationship existed between the Romans and the Jews until the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 and the Jews were finally expelled from the land in AD 139; leaving only a small number. The Romans re-named Judea Palestinia, after the Jews old Phoenician enemies the Philistines, as a slight against them. This resulted in a second Jewish dispersion.
As Christianity grew Palestine had a minority of Jews and a majority of, primarily, Roman/Greek Christians.
*Islam is founded by Mohammed. Jerusalem is claimed as a holy site.
In 636 the new Muslim Arabs conquered Palestine. It became part of a Calaphate that existed until the Crusades (1100–1291) when it was controlled by European Christians. Christians saw it as the “holy land” because of holy events, saints, etc. After its fall to the Arabs there always remained a minority of Jews and Christians.
A group of Muslims called the Mamluks then occupied Palestine until conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1516. Palestine would be part of the Ottoman Empire for the next 400 years.
To be continued...
The Unknown Minister is an accurate depiction of the roles a pioneer Baptist minister fulfilled in Ontario. One important scene at the centre is that of pastoral visitation. The first Baptist minister in this area, Rev. Alexander Stewart, walked many miles (in all sorts of weather) visiting cabins and families, etc, to catechize (teach), administer ordinances, encourage, etc. Though much has changed in the world in which we minister, this ought to remain a constant principle.
Click here toHowever, for as much as I’ve striven to be a visiting pastor/elder this is not the experience of many members. I met a man last year who was new to the church. He had been a Christian for years and attended a solid Baptist church. NEVER in all his Christian life had a pastor/elder ever visited his home! I was shocked and saddened.
In Acts 20 Paul sets his ministry before the Ephesian elders as an example to follow. Chiefly, how he “lived among you” (v. 18), teaching from “house to house” (v. 20) and caring “for the church of God” (v. 28). Elder/overseers/shepherds must be amongst the flock, being an example, knowing and setting a vision, feeding and caring for the flock.
While I seek to incorporate this into my ministry I confess many things impede it. There is the steady stream of teaching and necessary meetings, phone calls, etc. Those other related duties or emergency counselling sessions (themselves a form of visitation). There is also the strain of meeting with new members, baptismal candidates, etc. Still, despite the various pressures that would eat away at my time I try to visit at least 2 people/families a week (or in a medium sized church every person/family about twice a year). We also host a Life Group and other fellowship opportunities. I encourage the other elders to regularly contact our members and adherents.
However, visitation (or fellowship) isn’t only an elders responsibility. Hospitality is a Christian virtue and practice. Upon their conversions both Lydia and the Philippian jailer both were hospitable to the brothers. And think of how often Jesus visited and dined with people. While some may have the gift of hospitality, the Bible calls all believers to be hospitable. When was the last time you visited or had someone from the church to your home? (maybe even an elder?).
Mt 5:3- The First Beatitude
What did Paul mean when he wrote to the Galatians about the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2)?
For starters he was contrasting it with the Law of Moses, which because of the New Covenant, was no longer binding (Gal 3:15–29; 1 Cor 9:20). We never were saved by the Law (as many Jews had confused) but anticipating the Messiah, just as today one is justified through retroactive faith in Him. Was he or the Christian without a moral compass then if the Law of Moses had been fulfilled—certainly not (i.e. Gal 5:18 is not saying we can do whatever we’d like). Because the Mosaic Covenant is no more, how then shall we live?
In the Bible “law” can mean a number of things (which can make it confusing). It can mean: The Bible, God’s commands, the Mosaic Covenant or Law of Moses or the moral law.
Some have suggested antinomianism (there is no law) while others have opted for the other extreme of legalism (try to be saved by keeping the law). In the middle there are those who no longer see the Law of Moses as binding (Calvin- it is useful for wisdom) and those who see only those laws reinforced in the New Testament as binding (but some obviously sinful practices found in the OT are not found in the NT, like necromancy). Others see the moral law found in the Law of Moses still binding.
Enter the Law of Christ, or the royal law (Ja 2:8).
In 1 Cor 9:21b Paul said, “not being outside of the law of God but under the law of Christ.” Though the Law of Moses is no more that does not mean the New Covenant believer (Jew or Gentile) is left without a guide to pleasing God through obedient and right living.
Christ is the King (or Lord). The King has a law. His law is binding on His citizens and non-citizens, though only His citizens fully seek to keep it with the help of the Holy Spirit. There are some elements to this law that are unique to this Covenant (e.g. baptism), however, most of it is an encapsulation of the moral law.
Classically, Christians have understood the tri-partite (threefold) division of the Law of Moses: ceremonial (pointed to and fulfilled in Christ and useful in understanding the Gospel), legal (again, fulfilled in Christ, useful for wisdom and principles for civil governments—like Western society) and the moral law, which is universally binding on all people in all times. Christ fulfilled the whole law, ceremonially, legally and morally, and yet the moral law remains.
We get a sense of this before and after the Law of Moses. In Gen 26:5 it says, “Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws”—in other words the moral law. In Galatians Paul upholds the second half of the Great Commandment (Gal 5:14a), itself a summation of the 10 Commandments, which the New Testament cites in its entirety.
The Law of Christ are those commands unique to the New Covenant + the moral law.
May we seek to be obedient to the Law of Christ for our good and Christ’s glory.
To read more about the moral law see the 1689 Baptist Confession ch.19 and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession 1833.12.
The Lord’s Day (LD) is one of the most vital means of grace the Lord has given to His people. A Lord’s Day well spent is therefore essential for spiritual vitality. To this end, and also to learn how a pastor spends the LD, allow me to share how I spend the LD.
Firstly, my week looks forward to the LD and each week begins with the LD. This is the major rhythm in my life, not because I’m a pastor but because I’m a Christian.
Essential to a profitable LD is preparing for the LD by planning your week. I very seldom try to plan much of anything for a Saturday night. I want to make sure I’m well rested to spend the day well. (This includes sermon preparation, which I generally have completed during the week. Only occasionally am I writing vs. reviewing a sermon on Saturday night. I always appreciate God’s people’s prayers for me on this night).
I wake grateful that the Lord has given a day of rest and worship and family. I look forward to the morning and evening worship services that will prove an integral part in spending the LD well, of our corporate worship and discipleship. There is nothing planned for the day apart from rest, worship and family. No shopping (online or otherwise), no special events, no projects, no recreational activities, no travel, etc. The Lord’s Day is His appointment with me and so I give the day wholly to the Lord; it is His. While I do seek to usually take Monday as a day off for projects, family or writing the LD is my/the Sabbath. My service is part of my worship.
I’m usually up before anyone else in my home on the LD. After a time of general prayer I review my message and pray for the services and the day. We have breakfast and do my son’s devotional and then get ready to go to church. I try to make this as hassle free as possible so going to church doesn’t become a stressful affair.
As a pastoral family we’re normally there early (often first to arrive and last to leave). I don’t count the very act of being at church on the LD as contributing to ‘my week’s work’—I’m a Christian first, I’d be there anyway. However, I do try to take the extra time into consideration of my wider week’s ministry. After getting any last minute things ready (missing music pages, anything for the sermon) and helping ‘open things up’ those involved in the morning service meet together for prayer. We then fellowship and welcome people to the service (As we don’t presently have greeters I try to do this). One sacrifice in the service, since I often assist with the leading of singing is that I’m not able to help parent in the pew like other fathers. After the service I usually greet people and hopefully engage in relevant ministry conversations.
On the way home we usually take a short scenic drive and then have a light lunch. Occasionally we’ll have guest speakers or members/visitors over for a meal, though my wife’s health doesn’t always allow for this. In the afternoon there will quite likely be a nap, some p.m. sermon review, reading a Christian book, taking some quiet time to pray, a short family walk, etc.
We often will have a small snack before heading off the evening service. This service is the true highlight of my week. I love beginning the week on the Lord’s Day in worship but I love crowning the day with the p.m. service. With minimal set up we look forward to an informal service. After the service we have refreshments, which is a great time to catch up with people and speak about the things of the Lord.
After the p.m. service, which has been part of my life now for a decade, we return home for a tradition of crackers, cheese and jelly. Following this we call some family members to check in. Then we retire for the evening with a story, a devotional reading and a reading from the Bible followed by prayers. After a busy yet restful day we all seek to get a good night’s sleep.
Many ask how I can do as much as I do. The simple answer is by seeking to spend the LD well. I still have room to grow in spending the day well and hope you will likewise contemplate how you will grow in spending a profitable Lord’s Day.
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